“Why do you look at me like that?” he said.
“Germans?” repeated Joe; “what Germans? Three blighters workin’ on the road, as English as you or me. Wot are you talkin’ about, sir?”
“What!” cried Mr. Lavender do you tell me they were not Germans?”
“Well, their names was Tompkins, ’Obson, and Brown, and they ’adn’t an ’aitch in their ’eads.”
“God be praised!” said Mr. Lavender. “I am, then, still an English gentleman. Joe, I am very hungry; is there nothing left?”
“Nothin’ whatever, sir,” replied Joe.
“Then take me home,” said Mr. Lavender; “I care not, for my spirit has come back to me.”
So saying, he rose, and supported by Joe, made his way towards the car, praising God in his heart that he had not disgraced his country.
CONVERSES WITH A CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTOR
“Yes,” said Mr. Lavender, when they had proceeded some twenty miles along the road for home, “my hunger is excessive. If we come across an hotel, Joe, pull up.”
“Right-o, sir,” returned Joe. “’Otels, ain’t what they were, but we’ll find something. I’ve got your coupons.”
Mr. Lavender, who was seated beside his chauffeur on the driving-seat, while Blink occupied in solitude the body of the car, was silent for a minute, revolving a philosophic thought.
“Do you find,” he said suddenly, “that compulsory sacrifice is doing you good, Joe?”
“It’s good for my thirst, sir,” replied Joe. “Never was so powerful thirsty in me life as I’ve been since they watered beer. There’s just ‘enough in it to tickle you. That bottle o’ Bass you would ’ave ’ad at lunch is the last of the old stock at ‘ome, sir; an’ the sight of it fair gave me the wind up. To think those blighters ’ad it! Wish I’d known they was Germans—I wouldn’t ’ave weakened on it.”
“Do not, I beg,” said Mr. Lavender, “remind me of that episode. I sometimes think,” he went on as dreamily as his hunger would permit, “that being forced to deprive oneself awakens one’s worst passions; that is, of course, speaking rather as a man than a public man. What do you think will happen, Joe, when we are no longer obliged to sacrifice ourselves?
“Do wot we’ve been doin all along—sacrifice someone else,” said Joe lightly.
“Be serious, Joe,” said Mr. Lavender.
“Well,” returned Joe, “I don’t know what’ll ’appen to you, sir, but I shall go on the bust permanent.”
Mr. Lavender sighed. “I do so wonder whether I shall, too,” he said.
Joe looked round at him, and a gleam of compassion twinkled in his greenish eyes. “Don’t you worry, sir,” he said; “it’s a question of constitootion. A week’d sew you up.”
“A week!” said Mr. Lavender with watering lips, “I trust I may not forget myself so long as that. Public men do not go ‘on the bust,’ Joe, as you put it.”